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The Battle for the Mind

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 8, 2024 12:01 am

The Battle for the Mind

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 8, 2024 12:01 am

The greatest battles of the Christian life are waged on the battlefield of our minds. Today, Steven Lawson explains that if we are to cultivate a life of godliness, we must strive to cultivate a mind rooted in God's truth.

Get Steven Lawson's Teaching Series 'Rejoice in the Lord' for Your Gift of Any Amount: https://gift.renewingyourmind.org/3323/rejoice-in-the-lord

Meet Today's Teacher:

Steven Lawson is founder and president of OnePassion Ministries in Dallas. He is a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow, professor of preaching and dean of D.Min. studies at The Master's Seminary, and teacher for the Institute for Expository Preaching. He is author of many books, including The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Knox: Fearless Faith, and The Moment of Truth.

Meet the Host:

Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

Don't forget to make RenewingYourMind.org your home for daily in-depth Bible study and Christian resources.

Renewing Your Mind is a donor-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Explore all of our podcasts: https://www.ligonier.org/podcasts

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Our minds are the initial battlefield upon which our Christian life is contested, and it's there that the battle is won or lost. There must be this ever and always ongoing process of renewing our minds according to what is right, what is true, what is pure, what is wholesome. Welcome to the Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind.

I'm your host, Nathan W. Bingham. You're listening today, and perhaps every day I trust, because you take Paul's charge in Romans 12-2 seriously. The call to have our minds renewed, because in order to live well, we must first think well. And Paul shares similar thoughts not only in Romans, but in Ephesians and Colossians, and right thinking is the theme of today's verse in Philippians. Stephen Lawson has been joining us this week as we've considered the joy of the Lord, the peace of God, and today, the Christian mind, which is a battlefield for sure, especially with the volume of the noise and the wrong ideas on every area of life, including eternal life. Before we get to today's message and to help you as you seek to renew your mind according to the Word of God, you can own Dr. Lawson's 42-message study in Philippians when you give a gift of any amount at renewingyourmind.org.

Well, here's Dr. Lawson in Philippians 4, verse 8. In this session, we want to look at verse 8, and we're going to be talking about the battle for the mind. Philippians chapter 4 and verse 8, and this is such a practical passage that deals really with what's at the epicenter of our Christian walk. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. It was John Stott, the noted pastor in London, who wrote, the battle for the Christian life is the battle for the Christian mind, close quote.

And that is so true. In other words, as your mind goes, so goes your Christian life. It really is the tip of the spear that has the place of preeminence in your Christian life. It is your emotions that follow your thinking, and it is your will that follows your emotions and your thinking. And so what is really driving everything in the lead position in your Christian life is your mind. Proverbs 23 verse 7, Solomon writes, for as a man thinks within himself, so is he. In other words, you are what you are thinking about.

We used to say, regarding computers, garbage in, garbage out. Well, the same is true in the Christian life, just as a computer's output is determined by its input. Even so, your Christian output is determined by the input of what is coming into your mind. And so therefore, our minds are the initial battlefield upon which our Christian life is contested.

And it's there that the battle is won or lost. So God commands us to think rightly if our lives are to be lived rightly. So our Christian lives can be lived no higher than high and worthy, lofty, elevated thoughts of God and His holiness. But low thoughts of God and low thoughts of purity and morality lead really to low and base living.

That's why Paul writes in Romans 12 verse 2, do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed how? By the renewing of your mind. In other words, change your mind and you will change your life. Purify your mind and you will purify your life. But on the other hand, pollute your mind and you will pollute your life. Ephesians 4 verse 23, Paul writes, be renewed in the spirit of your mind. There must be this ever and always ongoing process of renewing our minds according to what is right, what is true, what is pure, what is wholesome. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 22, 37, you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind. Your mind matters to God.

And it is so critically important in our spiritual growth and development. Maybe another cross-reference before we get into this passage. In 1 Peter chapter 1, Peter talks about the pursuit of holiness. He says that we are to be holy as God is holy. And in the verse previous to that, in verse 13, Peter writes in this initiating the pursuit of purity and holiness.

This is what Peter writes. Prepare your minds for action. That's where Peter begins his case for practical, personal holiness.

Prepare your mind. And in Colossians 3 and verse 2, Paul writes, set your mind on things above and not on things of the earth. So your mind is like the steering wheel of the car. It's like the rudder of the ship.

Your mind is setting the direction for your life. And so it's this emphasis that Paul makes to the Philippians as we look at this verse. And it's a call for pure thoughts. These verses really provide us with a divinely given checkpoint for television watching, for movie attending, for music listening, for computer surfing, for book reading, for magazine looking.

This may sound a bit old-fashioned, and it is. It's about 2,000 years old when Paul wrote this, but it goes back even further than that. And so how do you know what is acceptable for you to think about?

How do you know what is acceptable for what you can set before your eyes? Well, what Paul tells us here provides some very helpful insight. James Montgomery Boice, great preacher of yesteryear, writes concerning these verses, these verses are a statement of one of God's rules for doubtful things.

They introduce us to the problem of making certain, certain things do not come into our minds. So let's look at this verse, verse 8 of Philippians 4. I want you to note first the people addressed. It begins, finally, brethren. The word finally has a summation feel, boiling down everything to a bottom line. And it points to how important verse 8 is for it to begin with the word finally.

The next word, brethren. This relates to all the brethren, all believers in every place, not just to some believers. This is not directed simply to new Christians who have very innocent, fragile minds. And once you outgrow that stage and become an older believer and more mature, then you can entertain anything you want in your mind because you're strong enough to repel it. No, that's not what this is saying. This is saying that if you are bought with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, if you have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, then you are a brethren, a brother or sister in Christ, and this is directed to each and every one of us. None of us is above this.

None of us have grown beyond this. This is all right in the center of what we need and must have in our Christian lives. So that's the people addressed.

Second, I want you to note the priority established. And at the end of verse 8, I want to fast forward to the end of verse 8. We're going to come back to the middle, but the last four words, dwell on these things. The word dwell here is a Greek word that really is a mathematical word.

It's an accounting word. And the idea here in this context, when he says dwell on these things, the idea is giving very precise, careful thought, like a mathematician or a CPA would give very careful thought to specific numbers. You need to know this is in the present tense, so you need to always be dwelling on these things, not just Sunday morning, but Saturday night as well. It's in the active voice, which means you need to take action on this. You can't just be passive and sit back and if this works out okay, it doesn't work out okay.

No, you've got to be active in the pursuit of this. Third, it's in second person plural, which again includes all believers. And then fourth, it's in the imperative mood. We're just parsing this verb. And because it's in the imperative mood, that means this is not just a mere suggestion.

No, this is an apostolic command that has come to us from the head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ, through the Apostle Paul and is now in our Bible and it is addressed to each and every one of us. So when you pull all this together, this is saying every moment of every day you need to take action. And this is a command for you to think carefully on the things that are laid out here in verse 8. You need to evaluate what you set before your eyes and what you allow into your mind. You need to scrutinize and calculate and take great effort to think through what you allow to influence you. And so Paul here addresses that we must dwell, we must think upon these things. So what are these things? Well, third, I want you to note the parameters marked.

Here are the guard rails on the side of the road. Here are the parameters that are leading us down the narrow path of holiness and godliness. And there are eight parameters that verse 8 has and they govern our thought life. The first six begin with whatever. The last two begin with if.

And so I want us to look at each of these carefully in the time that remains. It begins with whatever is true. The word whatever is a very all-encompassing word, whatever.

So in other words, there's no exceptions to this. If it's not true, you may not be thinking on it. Whatever is true, true to the Word of God, true to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles, it doesn't square with Scripture and it's taking you in another direction of worldly thought or impure thoughts.

Do not be dwelling on those things. The word true here is slightly different than truth. The word true here means authentic, genuine, reliable, faithful, honest, as opposed to that which is false and dishonest and totally, completely unreliable. That which is true is that which is coming out of the mouth of God and is recorded in Scripture. Then second, whatever is honorable.

Again, the word whatever is very broad in its outreach, in its breadth. And whatever is honorable, this word honorable means worthy of respect. It means that which is noble, that which is lofty and of an elevated nature, as opposed to that which is in the gutter. Get your mind out of the gutter and set your mind on that which is noble and to be revered and to be valued and to be considered majestic.

So this is very, very pointed. Think about those things Paul is writing that are ethical, that are principled, that are decent, that are moral and good and upstanding and upright and wholesome. As you set your mind on high and lofty things, it will pull you up morally, not take you down immorally. So elevate your mind above the muck and the mire and the trash and the dirt of this world.

Then third, he says whatever is right. The word right here comes from the same root word as righteousness, and it means that which conforms to a standard. That's what the word righteousness means, that which conforms to a standard. And the standard is God's own holiness, God's own flawless, pure character. The word right describes whatever is in harmony with God's essential being.

That sets the bar very high, does it not? This refers to that which is just and equitable and proper and trustworthy, that which is law-abiding, that which is fair. You need to be thinking on that which is right and not that which is wrong because it will have an effect inevitably upon your spiritual walk with the Lord. What we need to eliminate is what has been called stinking thinking. We need to be thinking about that which is right. And Paul just continues this list, and I think the reason he continues this list, and some of these are overlapping, is he's just drilling down to make the point. He could have almost just said, let your mind think on that which is holy, and that would have been an all-encompassing term.

But he's just slicing this so thinly and laying all of this out on the table to emphasize to us how important this is. So he says, whatever is pure, and the word pure here means that which is wholesome, that which is morally whole, not mixed with impurities, that which is clean, whether it be thoughts or words or deeds, that which is unmixed with filth, that which is unadulterated with moral corruption, that which is filtered and censored from that which is sinful and evil, that which is without moral blemish, be thinking on that which is virtuous and wholesome. And so this word pure reflects the morality that is spelled out for us in the Ten Commandments and in many, many, many portions of Scripture.

And we're not allowed to color outside the lines. We're not allowed to leave the narrow path that leads to life and try to get back onto the broad path that we allow certain things to come into our minds. Some people would call this legalistic. The Apostle Paul calls it true spirituality, and he calls it true godliness. And then fifth, he says whatever is lovely. And the word lovely comes at it from a different angle, and the word lovely here carries the idea of beauty, that which is morally attractive, not that which is reprehensible, not that which is morally grotesque, that which is morally ugly. Do not be allowing one little toe of this into your mind. You need to put up a firewall around your mind and not let in that which is unlovely, but only that which is lovely. This word lovely means that which is pleasing, pleasing to God. It should be pleasing to you, that which is winsome, which is gracious, and which is sweet. So, as we focus our thoughts, we need to be thinking of that which is lovely or morally appealing to pure hearts.

It's only an impure heart that desires impure input to come into the mind. There's one more whatever, whatever is of good repute. That means that which is highly regarded by heaven and by God, that which is well thought of and well respected by God, that which is reputable, that which is respectable morally, that which is credible, not that which is of questionable behavior or thoughts. And then he adds, the last two virtues begin with the word if, if there is any excellence, and the word excellence here refers to moral excellence, mental excellence. It speaks of virtue, which reflects a high moral standard, that which is exemplary morally. And then he says, and if anything worthy of praise, worthy of praise in the presence of God, as though God were in the midst of your thoughts looking over your shoulder peering into your mind, reading your every thought, that which can be expressed with praise to God, it must fit within this narrow parameter. So these eight qualifiers should really act as guardians over what we allow our eyes to see, what we allow our ears to hear, what we allow our minds to ponder.

We need to keep the trash out. And even sometimes in conversation, as people are telling us things, our ears cannot become trash cans for other people's slander and other people's gossip, because that is having an effect on me, how I perceive that person, but it's also dragging me down. It's not edifying. It's not building me up into Christ-likeness. It is tainting our thoughts, and it filters down into every part of our innermost being. So we must have a zero tolerance policy for what we allow into our minds, into our ears, and before our eyes, because the battle for the Christian life is the battle for the Christian mind. As your mind goes, so goes your Christian life. That's why the truth is so vitally important to us. That's why the truth, which is pure and undefiled and incorruptible, that's why the truth of the Word of God is so valuable to us, because like produces like, right? It is the truth of the pure, holy Word of God that produces a pure and holy life, but it is that which is displeasing to God. That produces a life that is displeasing to God. So may God enable us with a measure of strictness to be careful what we dwell on in the Christian life.

to so much that is dishonorable and impure, that through Renewing Your Mind, Ligonier Ministries, RefNet, and other trusted sources, we do have the ability to fill our days with trusted teaching and to think on that which is true, honorable, and excellent. Today's message on Philippians 4-8 is one of 42 in Dr. Lawson's series titled Rejoice in the Lord. You can gain streaming access to this series and study guide when you give a gift of any amount at renewingyourmind.org or when you call us at 800 435 4343.

When you do, we'll also send you the complete series on DVD. This would be a great resource to donate to your church library. Well, because of its length, a wonderful opportunity for you to study and ponder Philippians for almost a year, alone, with your family, or with your small group. Give your gift today at renewingyourmind.org. What does discipleship look like? Well, that's verse 9 of Philippians 4 and tomorrow's topic here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-08 03:34:50 / 2024-05-08 03:42:33 / 8

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